In the black of the night, I was sitting in the driver’s seat, guiding a small sedan along a serpentine one-lane suburban road. A dense fog lingered above the ground. Headlights illuminated the path before me. There were no other vehicles on the road. There was no music playing. The steering wheel, dashboard, center console; all unfamiliar. This wasn’t my car. As I approached a bend, I slowed the vehicle and gazed to my left. There was a small ranch house. Tire marks ripped through the grass. The tracks leading up to a bare coniferous tree split in two. A bouquet of flowers at its base. My attention returned to the empty road as silence floated through the air. I drove further before looking to my left again. Two black horses were walking in the oncoming lane.
I was by myself, standing in the corridor of a house looking into a kitchen. There was a party taking place. I felt drunk. Nothing looked familiar. Dozens of people were scattered around me, drinking from red solo cups, having conversations, laughing. I didn’t know them. Their voices overshadowed the music playing. I didn’t recognize any of the people in the kitchen. My vision was hazy. I must be very drunk, I thought. I wandered around like a ghost, searching for any sense of familiarity. Looking someone or something I recognized. I approached a group of people surrounding the island in the middle of the kitchen and stood near them, beckoning for someone to recognize me. But I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me. They didn’t acknowledge my presence.
I was confused and paced into a dimly lit hallway in search of my friends. They must be here, I thought. Along the hallway there we’re several doors. One opened. I saw two people enter the hallway through a doorway which revealed a room of full of people partying. I stepped into the room. After walking to the center, I stood by myself and surveyed those around me, looking for friends. I did not see a single recognizable face. And as I stood there, the crowd grew thicker. Conversations grew louder and louder and louder and I started to feel dizzy. My heart rate accelerated. More and more people continued to appear until I felt like I was drowning. In a sea of strangers, suffocating.
I had to get out. I swam through the crowd to reach the door. But the crowd seemed endless and the room felt like it had expanded. It felt so big and I felt so small and helpless and overwhelmed. I became frightened. I began to shove and push my way through the mob of people. Eventually I reached an opening. A young man walked past me, and in panic, I grabbed his shoulder and swung him around. With wide eyes and a furrowed brow he looked startled before seeing my face and letting out a sigh.
Oh, it’s you, he said.
Where am I?
Where am I? Please, I don’t feel good. I really don’t feel good and I don’t know where I’m at. Just – where am I.
He laughed again. Jordan, you’re just drunk, he said.
I, I don’t know you. Who are YOU. Where AM I.
He laughed again, turned his back and vanished into the abyss of people. I was terrified and alone. Maybe I had been drugged. But I couldn’t figure out where I was or who I was here with and I was freaking out. Breaths became shallow and quick. The door reappeared. I hastily leapt forward, swung it open and reemerged in the hallway and tried to catch my breath.
I don’t know what is going on but I think I screwed up. I think I screwed up big time. I think I’ve done something terribly wrong.
Walking towards the kitchen was the figure of a thin, blonde girl wearing a red and black plaid flannel shirt. A wave of relief swept over me. It was Nicolette.
I called out to her.
She continued to walk, her back turned to me.
I ran to her and grabbed her and spun her around to finally find the answers I was searching for.
Nicolette, I don’t know where we are and I can’t find anyone, I said. Where’s Nick? Where is everyone?
She didn’t speak. Her face was cloaked by the darkness of the hallway. I leaned closer and scanned her face. It was not Nicolette. Terror flooded all the way to my toes. It looked nearly identical to her but it wasn’t her. It wasn’t her. The girl stood in front of me silently without saying a word. Her eyes gazed over my shoulder, gesturing me to turn around.
I turned around and gleaming at me at the end of the hallway was the front door to the house. An escape. I stumbled towards the door, hyperventilating. I was struggling to keep my balance. Every step felt like walking a tight rope. Upon opening the door, I saw fifty, seventy, eighty people scattered and having conversations on the front lawn. Beyond the lawn, a forest with no street in sight, no neighbors to the right or to the left. I stepped outside and my vision blurred, but the people in the crowd in front of me looked faintly familiar. I crept closer and I felt weak. But I had to find them. I could hardly stand. Trying my hardest not to fall. Not to succumb to whatever poison had taken grip over my mind and body.
I reached them. I noticed my younger brother. With tears in my eyes, I ran up to him and cried, Nick, Nick – you gotta help me. Nick you’ve gotta help me man. Where are we? What is going on? Please just help me Nick.
It was not Nick. Rather, another person who resembled him. My eyes darted across the crowd. Michael. Jared. Ryan. Kiersten. PJ. Izzy. Jack. Andrew. I was surrounded by doppelgängers of my friends.
My nose got bloody. My ears started ringing. I felt pressure on my brain. My vision blurred.
I began to whisper.
My heart racing out of control, each beat throbbing throughout my body. With each beat it was expanding and taking up more room in my chest, making it harder to breath.
Help, I said with tears building up in my eyes. My voice grew higher. Help. Somebody help me… please.
They were surrounding me. Thirty, forty, fifty of them. The faces of all my friends. They stared at me in silence while I begged for their help.
Tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt weak. I started screaming.
HELP ME. I’M NOT OKAY. IM NOT OKAY. HELP ME. I’M SORRY. PLEASE. I AM SORRY.
With each shout the strength of my voice faded further and further, into a whimper.
They stared at me without expression.
I felt weaker with every breath. I collapsed to my knees. Moonlight glistening put me in submission. My body fell to the grass. My breaths slowed to nothing. Lying in the grass they walked closer and stood over me and stared. Everything faded to black. I slipped into an abyss of darkness.
My eyes opened. A black-hooded demon was hovering over me.
I tried to yell but nothing came out. I forcefully closed my eyes. I opened my eyes again, body soaking-wet, lying in bedsheets drenched in sweat. Bedroom pitched black, my door lied ajar exposing the light of my apartment hallway. I heard the squeak of my front door being pushed open.
I tried to move my body. I attempted to raise my arms, my legs. To wiggle my toes or my fingers. Nothing. My body was paralyzed.
The clunk of footsteps echoed through my hallway, each step growing closer. Cold fear filled the chambers of my heart. Someone was in my apartment. The footsteps slowly grew nearer. And louder. And they kept walking towards my room.
I channeled every ounce of mental energy into moving a single muscle. I closed my eyes and told myself it wasn’t real. It can’t be. I’m dreaming.
But I wasn’t dreaming. This was my actual bedroom. This was my bed. The wall décor. The bedsheets. It was real. I opened my eyes. The silhouette of a hooded man stood at my door, staring at me while I lied in my bed. Trapped in my body, paralyzed, consumed by horror.
My toes began to wiggle. My fingers bent on command. I closed my eyes and reopened them. He took a step towards me. I closed my eyes again. Desperately trying to move my feet and my hands. Flexed my legs. I opened my eyes once more. And he was gone. I sighed and channeled my mind to reconnect with my limp body. Soon my legs and arms followed.
I sat up in my bed, back against the headboard, brought my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. I sat there in the dark – shaking, rocking back and forth, telling myself that everything was okay for ten minutes while the innocent chirping of morning birds sang in the background.
This really needs to stop happening, I thought to myself.
The time: 5:20 am.
I played the surreal images over and over in my head for the next two hours, staring at the ceiling, while the sun slowly poured light through my bedroom window. The sounds of my next door neighbor’s shower water running signaled the start of a new day.
The phone rang. It was her.
Good morning, she said cheerfully.
Hey, good morning.
How’d you sleep?
Well I didn’t fall asleep til’ like two.
Why’d you stay up so late?
I don’t know.
Well did you sleep well at least?
Like a baby, I said.
Good, I know you needed a good night of sleep. What are you doing today?
Oh, you know, just studying. Gonna watch some boards videos, do my flash cards, then some practice questions. We don’t have anything mandatory today, so I have the whole day to myself to study.
Ugh perfect, you’re gonna have a great day.
Thanks, and you?
Well I’m on my way to class, then I’m going to the rec, then I think me and the girls are going out to dinner.
Oh cool. Where at?
I think Meg wants to try the new taco place down the street and get mojitos, she said.
That sounds like fun.
Yeah I think so too. I need it. It’s been a long week.
I know, right.
Mhmm… well you better have a great day. You’re so smart. Keep killing it. I love you.
I love you too.
Say it like you mean it.
I – love – you – too.
That’s better. Alright, love ya. Bye!
I hung up the phone, draped myself in my bathrobe, brewed a pot of coffee, and locked my fears in my bedroom until the day’s work was complete. Until the cycle could begin again.
Part 3: Get a Life
Part 4: Rorschach Test